|SocialismToday Socialist Party magazine|
Issue 210 July/August 2017
The revolution is in danger!
Following the mass, armed demonstrations in the capital Petrograd (3-5 July), the Bolsheviks and other revolutionary Marxists faced harsh repression. The forces of reaction were in the ascendancy, a military coup was in the offing. This was analysed by LEON TROTSKY in the journal Vpered (Forward, No7, 25 July 1917) - translated into English for the first time, by Pete Dickenson.
The revolution is in danger - from the side that alone threatens danger, from the side of the counter-revolution. All talk that the counter-revolution can come in, or is coming in, through a 'Bolshevik gate' in practice lacks any real content. At most, it can mean that the counter-revolution is always ready to use this or that mistake of the revolutionary party. But the crux of the matter still lies in the counter-revolution, its class composition, its interests, plans and forces.
Counter-revolution is, above all, the monarchy, the bureaucracy (secular and spiritual), the old officer corps, the nobility, the monasteries and, finally, the imperialist bourgeoisie and its cousin, European diplomacy. The events of 3-5 July did not create the counter-revolution, they only revealed it. The blind and semi-blind were forced to see that true danger threatens the revolution from the right, from the side of those reactionary forces, those powers in society that, as yet, have not been undermined by the revolution and who hope to regain political power.
The first Provisional Government and the second coalition saw its main task as ‘taking the country’ as far as a constituent assembly. Pending its convocation, the resolution of all the major issues that created the revolution was postponed. It was precisely this policy of evasiveness and temporising that inevitably sharpened internal contradictions and led to a terrible crisis – well before the convening of a constituent assembly.
‘In principle’ it was believed that Russia would become a republic. But the Provisional Government didn’t dare to proclaim a republic and draw all the necessary conclusions in the area of the estates, titles, etc. The office of head of government itself continued to be bequeathed to a prince and the Romanov titles of grand duke and grand duchess were preserved. (1) Thus a question mark remained over the character of the state. At the same time, the prospect of the proclamation of a republic by the constituent assembly must have encouraged the monarchist elements to strain every nerve in the months remaining to them and, at the first opportunity that presented itself, to stake everything.
The slogan of the transfer to the people of the estates of the landowners, etc, was officially semi-acknowledged. But nothing resulted from this slogan in the sense of a rush for the immediate elimination of landlordism and to actually give to the people the right to the land. Observing the continuing economic control of the landlords and of landowners’ rule in the countryside, the peasants could not have been filled with confidence, in the abstract, in the salutary power of a revolution whose central organs were quite far away. This created the ground for chaotic seizures and havoc on the one hand, and for Black Hundred demagogy on the other. (2) The landlords got not only a menacing warning but also a significant period of time – up to the constituent assembly – to mobilise their forces against the danger and, if possible, to knock the revolution out of the saddle.
The same thing was observed in all other areas. Proclaiming from above the principles of democracy but leaving in place reactionary bureaucrats and judges, the government apparatus became, to a large extent, a tool for rallying anti-revolutionary forces or their covers. This monstrous contradiction was felt with renewed sharpness by the people whose bodies had not yet healed from the sores of tsarist chains. Moreover, the counter-revolutionary bureaucracy, the Black Hundreds and the Kadets, hastened to make use of their official positions to ‘wreck’ the revolution. (3)
The revolution shook the army to its depths. The old iron discipline crumbled into dust. In military units a democratic regime was established, everything was discussed and criticised. The question of war and peace was posed point blank in the consciousness of the soldiers. The programme put forward by the Soviet and in words adopted by the government – for a peace without annexations and for a review of the old treaties – only strengthened in the minds of the soldiers a hatred of all those dragging out the war, of hidden and open supporters of annexations, and of proponents of an offensive at any cost. Putting off all questions to the constituent assembly, shelving to the indefinite future the issue of the revision of the treaties with the allies, the government, however, did not consider the possibility of postponing the offensive.
The disintegration of the army, with all its tragic consequences, resulted from the contradiction between awakened hopes and the declared principles of the government, on the one hand, and its complete diplomatic impotence on the other.
In a most direct way, the masses below felt the intolerable contradictions the revolution had fallen into. The attempts of the masses to push aside these contradictions using their own methods were regarded from above as ‘anarchy’. When the Kronstadt sailors arbitrarily removed the commissar nominated from above, the Kadet Pepelyaeva, the entire ranks of the press, above all the SR-Menshevik, began to yell about the secession of Kronstadt from Russia. One of Alexinsky’s [supporters] even faked a Kronstadt ‘unity’ coin. (4) They were frightening the Kronstadters with all sorts of retribution, even to the extent that the Soviet of Peasants’ Deputies threatened to cut off their bread supply from the villages. The antagonism between the left wing of the revolution and its petty-bourgeois centre was extremely aggravated by such practices.
The Petrograd workers, standing at the centre of the political life of the country, particularly sharply experienced the terrible effect of the economic collapse and the mobilisation of counter-revolutionary forces, in connivance with a domestically powerless government. When the Petrograd workers in ever and ever greater numbers demanded the transfer of all power to the Soviet, the SRs and Mensheviks explained this by the ‘backwardness’ of the masses. (5) It appeared then that the most backward section of the general revolutionary army was the Petrograd proletariat.
To it, they counter-posed the authority of the provinces and the peasantry and threatened that Russia would ‘get even’ with Petrograd. In the struggle for a clearly unviable ‘coalition’ policy, the leading parties of the Soviet were forced to turn on their head all political ideas, and to brand the Petrograd vanguard of the revolution as the worst enemies of the peasantry and peasant soldiers. As a result, the revolutionary vigilance of the Petrograd workers turned into nervous suspicion. This was the necessary psychological precondition for the events of 3-5 July.
The demonstrative exit of the Kadets permanently laid bare the complete ineptitude of the government coalition that the Mensheviks and SRs had supported with suicidal blindness for two months. Why the Kadets destroyed the coalition precisely on 2 July it is difficult to say with certainty now. The Ukrainian question was only a pretext. It is very likely that the Kadets had obtained from the American stock-brokers (Senator Root’s mission!) a commitment not to give any money to a purely Soviet government, and with this trump card in their hand decided to blackmail the ‘revolutionary democracy’. (6) It is also possible that the Kadets, as the main instigators of the offensive at the front, were in a hurry to quit the government ranks at that moment when the offensive, which was linked to them and was due to them, was turning into a tragic retreat. Finally, revealing in this way their character as counter-revolutionary extortionists, the Kadets also exposed the anti-people nature of the coalition government, which the Mensheviks and SRs had put forward to the toiling masses as the only salvation of the revolution.
When we said and wrote that the coalition government was doomed to sterility due to the internal struggle of contradictory class forces, we were accused of demagogy. When we argued that, in alliance with Konovalov and Shingarev, it was impossible to seriously encroach not only on 100% of profits but on 50%, and that it was impossible to lead the agrarian revolution hand in hand with Prince Lvov, we were accused of awakening the ‘dark instincts’ of the masses and of demagogy and harassment. (7) And when the Kadets left the government, slamming the door, the Mensheviks and SRs – defending themselves from the Kadets and denouncing them – were forced to confirm everything that we had been relentlessly repeating since the beginning of the coalition government.
Take, for example, the Rabochaya Gazeta, a publication conducting the fiercest struggle against Bolshevism. On 13 July, this organ of the Mensheviks wrote: "For two months the Provisional Government refused to begin the fight against the terrible economic collapse. Konovalov saw fit to withdraw exactly at the moment when the new government announced the need to regulate economic life. So why was it necessary to keep Konovalov, when to please him it was necessary to refrain from a single measure to fight economic devastation?" It wasn’t necessary of course. We pointed this out at the time.
The Rabochaya Gazeta continues: "The comrades of Mr Miliukov in the government, from the party of people’s freedom, fully supported his foreign policy, and the same government representatives, with all their actions, demonstrated their solidarity with Mr Konovalov". Absolutely true, exactly as we said.
The Menshevik organ continues: "Mr. Shingarev remained deaf to all the appeals of the Soviet delegation in the National Food Committee about the need to regulate economic activity, and the ministry of industry and trade, headed by the Kadet Stepanov, after Konovalov’s exit, remained a bastion of the capitalists in their struggle against the workers, and against the regulation of economic life". Completely right, exactly how we characterised the role of the ‘capitalist ministers’ in the coalition government.
"And then", says the Rabochaya Gazeta, "the revolution came up against these same elements, in their opposition to its attempts to resolve the acute national conflict in the Ukraine, as well as its attempts to stop the anarchic seizure of the landed estates by the peasants, by strengthening the authority of the land committees in the regulation of the land and land relations. Could it have yielded to the Kadets and Lvov? Did it have to put down the Ukrainians by force of arms, instead of compromising, or to engage in armed struggle with the peasant masses, instead of immediately, at least in part (!), meeting their aspirations?"
Thus, the Rabochaya Gazeta frankly acknowledged that the ‘socialist ministers’ could not, even partly (!!), meet the aspirations of the peasantry because the ‘capitalist ministers’ would not permit it. We were saying exactly this to the working masses, and precisely for this we were accused of demagogy by the entire press, ‘one after the other’, from Novoe Vremya to Rabochaya Gazeta.
At the All-Russia Congress, Tsereteli assumed responsibility for the government as a whole. (8) The official speakers suggested to the delegates that not one measure proposed by the ‘socialist ministers’ was rejected by the bourgeois majority. Peshekhonov reported that ‘the resistance of the bourgeoisie was broken’. (9) Skobelev assured congress that the resignation of Konovalov was due to ‘personal’ reasons, and did not in any way signify differences of organised capital with the economic policies of the democracy. (10) It was all a lie. They misled the delegates and the entire people. And when we tried to reveal the way things really were, and said that Rabochaya Gazeta or Dyelo Naroda must now speak out, we were accused of demagogy and undermining the authority of the revolutionary government. (11)
If by demagogy is understood the reporting to the masses of false information and knowingly hiding important facts from them, with a view to create in the masses, with such artificial means, a mood favourable to the political plans of certain parties and groups, then demagogy was the policy at the centre of the ruling groups of the Soviet majority. And if you believe, along with Lassalle, that revolutionary politics begins with a statement of ‘what is’, then our policy was revolutionary. (12)
The Petrograd masses were knocking on the door of the Soviet, repeatedly demanding a more decisive domestic and foreign policy. They were met with complete indifference and hostility. They received a reply that they were serving the cause of the counter-revolution. Meanwhile, the masses could not but know that all the organs of the counter-revolution were directing the most bitter persecution of the Bolsheviks, the Petrograd workers and Kronstadters. Novoe Vremya, Russkoe Volya, Petrogradsky Listok, Malinkaya Gazeta, and Rech, picked up every word of the Mensheviks and SRs against the Bolsheviks. They printed a portrait of Tsereteli as the ‘destroyer of the Bolsheviks’ and, in column after column, weaved a web of nefarious slander against the revolutionary internationalists, systematically hiding behind the authority of the Soviet and the socialist ministers. (13)
It is very likely that extreme Black Hundred adventurers wormed their way into the Bolshevik organisation in order to ‘make use of’ its action, in the same way that tsarist thugs in the old days tried to turn our revolutionary demonstrations into Black Hundred pogroms. But this did not create any ideological link between Bolshevism and reaction. On the contrary. One of the tasks of the hirelings of the counter-revolution was to compromise the leftmost flank, as the most serious obstacle on the road to the restoration of the monarchy.
These adventurist subversive attempts were supplemented with an informal, but nevertheless real, political bloc of the entire reaction with the Mensheviks and the SRs – against the Bolsheviks. You really cannot ignore the fact that every anti-Bolshevik article in Robochaya Gazeta or Dyelo Naroda was immediately reprinted by the all the black and yellow press, and that Malinkaya Gazeta, long before the ‘revelations’ of Aleksinsky and the other blackmailers, demanded in every issue the arrest of comrade Lenin.
The attempts to lump the Bolsheviks in with the ‘dark forces’ were especially outrageous since it was precisely the official representatives of the Bolsheviks who urgently pointed out to the Democratic Centre the growing counter-revolutionary danger and tirelessly demanded the radical cleaning out of all the Black Hundred lairs. In exactly this spirit, the workers’ section of the Petrograd Soviet adopted a resolution on the tragic day, 3 July.
The departure of the Kadets from the government and the immediate outburst of revelations about the inner nature of the coalition government showed to the Petrograd workers and soldiers that we were correct in our understanding of what was happening at the top. Nothing was done to halt the anarchy in production because the representatives of the strike breakers in the government prevented it. Nothing serious had been done on the agrarian issue because Lvov did not permit it. Nothing serious was done in practice in the struggle for peace because the entire foreign policy of revolutionary Russia was kept to the old imperialist track. All this was confirmed on 2 July in its entirety. The two months of coalition rule were like a black hole in the eyes of the masses. How much valuable time was lost, used up on showy verbosity, in order to hide from the masses what really was going on – and in hounding the Bolsheviks.
The Petrograd workers and soldiers, precisely because they were in advance of the rest of the popular masses and closer to events, could not help but feel a desire to intervene immediately in the denouement of the crisis. The masses did not have any confidence that the official chiefs of the democracy would draw the necessary conclusions from the situation and resort to heroic measures. ‘Unite with us rather than with the capitalists!’ This is what the revolutionary workers wanted to shout at the revolutionary centre, to those accountable, ensconced in the Tauride Palace.
None of the revolutionary parties or responsible organisations called the masses onto the streets on 3 July, still less with arms. This was officially established at the joint session of the Executive Committee by the rapporteur Voitinsky. On the contrary, the Bolsheviks, like all the other parties, called on the soldiers and workers not to take to the streets. Nevertheless, the masses came out, and with weapons in hand.
What role in this did counter-revolutionary provocation or German agents play? At this time, it is difficult to say with certainty. The press pack raised such a cloud of evil lies around the events of 3-4 July that no facts or individuals were visible through it. It remains to wait for the results of a genuine inquiry – not that, of course, that the vacillating high priests of justice carried out in general harness with Aleksinsky. But it is already possible to say with certainty that the results of such an investigation can throw clear light on the work of the Black Hundred gangs and the clandestine role of German, British or veritable Russian gold, one or the other, jointly with the third. But the political meaning of the events no judicial investigation can change.
The worker and soldier masses of Petrograd were not and could not be bribed. They are not in the service of Wilhelm, Buchanan or Miliukov. (14) Mercenary scoundrels with greater or lesser success can try to derail the movement for their purposes. But the movement itself was prepared by the war, by the looming hunger, the rising head of reaction, the brainless government, the adventure of the offensive and by the political distrust and revolutionary disquiet of the workers and soldiers.
The bourgeois government press speaks of ‘an armed rebellion’ that was put down by the ‘true’ forces of the revolution. There is not a word of truth in this official cliché that has already been erected to characterise the events of 3 and 4 July. The slogan of the demonstration was: ‘All power to the Soviet’. The demonstrators filed past the Soviet building. Against whom was the insurrection? The falsifiers, regardless, have to talk about an attempt to ‘seize power’. By whom? How did this attempt manifest itself?
As an incriminating circumstance they cited the attempt of the demonstrators to arrest Kerensky, Tsereteli and Chernov. Someone claims that a certain group wanted to arrest Kerensky, but it arrived at the station much later. A section of workers from the Putilov factory vigorously demanded that Tsereteli come out of the palace and answer their questions. Finally, a band of suspicious characters, intentionally placing themselves at the entrance of the Tauride Palace, really did try to detain Chernov, behind the back of the masses. But it was worth, in public, initiating the demonstrators into this attempt as the entire enterprise by the semi-hooligan grouplet fell to pieces and Chernov was able to freely return to the palace. (15) That’s all there was to it. Tens of thousands of demonstrators did not have any connection to this, and the leaders of the demonstrating factories and regiments undoubtedly learned for the first time about the arrest ‘attempt’ from the newspapers.
Regardless of all the press fabrications, false testimony and intelligence service fantasies, there remains the undeniable fact that many tens of thousands of armed soldiers and workers, who almost unchallenged prevailed over the streets of Petrograd on 3-4 July, did not made a single attempt to seize any organs of power or political institutions. This alone, fully and patently demonstrates that at that time there was not the slightest sign of political preparations for an ‘uprising’. An aroused mass broke away from the demonstration to protest. If they took up weapons it was because they feared an armed attack by the counter-revolution. Vile harassment in the preceding months had made the workers and soldiers very suspicious towards the Nevsky Prospect and the armed elements associated with it. The only thought of the demonstrators was to frighten the counter-revolutionary underground with a show of arms and so clear the way for their procession.
Nevertheless, shots were fired, blood was spilled, and there were victims. Which gun fired first will never be clear. There is no doubt, however, that there were bullets, paid for beforehand by German marks, British shillings or with veritable Russian silver roubles. This impudent clandestine provocation, depending strongly on [legal] impunity, played a fatal role in the events of 3-5 July. To relentlessly reveal this role is the task of an investigation. But here again, even if an investigation wanted to dig deeper, there is not much that could change the political face of the events.
On 4 July, the Bolshevik party, in a bloc with the Inter-District Organisation, made an attempt to take hold of the spontaneously developing movement, to carry it towards a peaceful intervention and to shape it politically. (16) We do not consider it necessary to make excuses to anyone whatsoever – not even to the platonic criticism* of Novaya Zhizn – that we did not temporise and move away to the side-lines, allowing General Polovtsev to ‘talk’ with the demonstrators. (17) In any event, our intervention, from any angle, could not have increased the number of victims or turned a chaotic armed demonstration into a political uprising. This is completely clear from the whole picture of the events and their internal logic. In the name of observing elementary political integrity, the first to rise up against the routine police lies should have been the chiefs of the SRs and Mensheviks – if they had not lost, together with their socialist principles, the last vestiges of revolutionary instinct.
* Platonic critics are those who criticise from the wings of the movement, ‘without consequences’, for the solace of their own conscience. Such critics, not connected to the real movement of the class life of the proletariat, are easily seduced by the idea that they can shrug their shoulders at any trouble. But often it happens that those criticised know everything the platonic critics do, plus some more on top of that.
Only simpletons can really believe that the events of 3-5 July ‘wrecked’ the revolution. If the harsh political upheaval in July really tore off the roof, then it was only a fake one, hiding political reality.
What became obvious was the terrible abyss between the big chiefs of the ‘revolutionary democracy’ and the vanguard of the working class. At the very moment when the liberal bourgeoisie openly broke with the SRs and Mensheviks, it was discovered that the leaders of the latter, in pursuit of the liberal bourgeoisie, finally turned against the most revolutionary wing of the working masses. In the slogan ‘power to the Soviet’, summing up the unhappy experience of the coalition government, the leaders of the Soviet, first and foremost, saw a revolt against the will of the ‘revolutionary democracy’. Instead of trying to take hold of the movement, actually following the actual line of development of the entire revolution and being politically guided by it, Kerensky, Tsereteli and the others came to the conclusion to use police methods to disarm the transgressors. Therefore, as punishment for unsound behaviour, those workers and soldiers were disarmed who, at the moment of danger, would make the greatest sacrifice for the cause of the revolution. There can be no doubt about this.
But this is not all. By disarming Petrograd, the leaders of the Soviet no doubt hoped to buy off the liberal bourgeoisie, giving them a clear example of their toughness and fitness for office. The result was the direct opposite, however. The liberal bourgeoisie had already made concessions since it was afraid that otherwise the petit-bourgeois democracy would break with it and unite with the revolutionary proletariat. The more deeply the policy of futile conciliationism drove a wedge between the SR-Menshevik centre and the left wing, the more unyielding the bourgeoisie became. Its intransigence turned into provocative insolence when, disarming revolutionary Petrograd, Kerensky-Tsereteli-Chkheidze uncovered their left flank.
To all this was added the catastrophe at the front. At the very beginning of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets – that is, in early June – the Bolshevik fraction and the United Internationalists in their declaration warned that the planned offensive had not been prepared for, materially or ideologically, and could become fatal for the army, finally destroying its internal cohesion. Those trumpeting the offensive proclaimed this warning to be a ‘slander’ on the army. Once again, however, it was discovered that official patriotism rarely coincides with insight. Our predictions made then have now been borne out in the most terrible ways.
Those who foresaw nothing – or still worse, carried out the requirements of the allies, turning a blind eye to reality and to the needs of the revolution – try now, shamefully, to put responsibility for the ongoing collapse at the front onto the Bolsheviks*. However, this goading does not change the situation. The gamble of the offensive led to the catastrophe of the retreat which threatens to devour the army and the revolution. And if Petrograd had not even gone through the dramas of the 3-5 July, the events at the front would, all the same, have broken the politics of illusion and declamation, whose representatives formerly were Tsereteli and Kerensky.
* This is the same way of thinking that allowed the tsarist generals to make the Jews responsible for their own failures. It is enough in the speeches of a Liber, to insert ‘Bolsheviks’ instead of ‘Yids’ and you get a typical example of the old military-pogrom literature. (18) And this is not a coincidence. The Libers, like the tsarist generals, had the same motive, to distract the attention of the masses from the bankruptcy of their policies and to vent their anger and despair on the backs of a third party. It is the politics of cowardice, impotence and shame.
The temporary balance was mercilessly destroyed. In the face of counter-revolution and the collapse of the army, exceptional measures had to be taken. The Central Executive Committee announced that an administration was being organised, a ‘government for the salvation of the revolution’. The semi-official press explained that this is about a revolutionary dictatorship. Whose dictatorship? Over whom? In the name of what? A dictatorship of the masses over the possessing classes? Or a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie over the army, the workers and the peasants?
After the departure of the Kadets, the socialist ministers continued to seek allies from the liberal bourgeoisie. After their repudiation by the Kadets, they agreed to any bourgeois to make up the numbers. The cartoon character of this new combination suggests that it was intended primarily to reassure the allied governments and the exchanges. Clearly no revolutionary dictatorship could come about in such circumstances. The proletariat is hostile and half-crushed; the bourgeoisie quit power in an acrimonious manner to play a waiting game. In a certain sense, this is the setting for a ‘supra-class’ Bonapartist dictatorship. But for this to succeed, it would be necessary to have a passive, conservative peasantry and a reflection of this in a ‘disciplined’ army. We do not have those conditions yet. That’s why Kerensky and Tsereteli, just when they were invested with complete ‘authority’, clearly felt that they were hanging in mid-air.
A revolutionary dictatorship is unimaginable, particularly one directed against the proletariat, without a unified, principled revolutionary class willing to go ‘to the end’. A Bonapartist dictatorship is impossible in the absence of a land-satisfied peasantry and a victorious army. There remains a third type of dictatorship: a party of ‘order’, ruling over the proletariat, the army and the village poor.
It was precisely to this side that Kerensky and Tsereteli directed their energies. Crushing the Bolshevik centres, disarming the workers and ‘untrustworthy’ soldiers, restoring the death penalty in the army, the chiefs of the Soviet immediately entered into negotiations with the Kadet party and with representatives of the most influential bourgeois organisations. The government of ‘revolutionary salvation’ began with a proposal to cooperate with the organisations of the counter-revolution. With the participation of the State Duma, stock exchange committees, large and small factory owners’ associations, etc, the State Conference in Moscow had to open a new chapter: a final break between the leaders of the petty bourgeoisie and the proletariat that had been promoted in the first period; a final capitulation before imperialist capital; and a final liquidation of the revolution in the name of the capitalist order. (19)
But along the way difficulties arose. The demands of the bourgeoisie grew even more quickly than the willingness of the leaders of the petty bourgeoisie to compromise. And a stumbling block emerged immediately: the land question.
The minister of rural affairs, Chernov, did not attempt at all to act in the spirit of the SR programme that promises that the party will not only stand up for its demands in a constituent assembly, but also put them into practice in the immediate revolutionary period. Entirely succumbing to pressure from the bourgeois parties, Chernov spoke against ‘separate’ (?!) solutions, insisting on the suspension of all critical issues to the constituent assembly. Nevertheless, he promised when he became a minister to pass a decree banning land transactions after 1 March, in order not to give land owners and speculators, using real and fictitious transactions, a way to completely confuse land relations and create a hopeless situation for the constituent assembly. However, Chernov turned out to be powerless to carry this decree through the coalition government that the soviets had called on the peasants to support. It took the collapse of the coalition, the tragic upheaval of 3-5 July, and the departure of Lvov, for the decree to come out, albeit in a distorted form.
It is highly revealing that even Narodnoe Volya, standing on the far right flank of the SR party, considers the decree is belated. The newspaper says: "Seeing all this (an orgy of land sales), the population could not remain calm, and in very many cases began to take the matter into their own hands. The implications of this are well known, and will be summed up when the harvest is reaped. There is every reason to believe that the current agricultural year will result in a large shortage. Meanwhile, the ruin on the land and in the economy would not have happened, and in any event would not have reached such proportions, if the Provisional Government, in its first days in office, had shown sufficient determination and firmness.
"If only it had not restricted itself to a solitary declaration that the land question will be resolved by the Constituent Assembly, but immediately adopted a series of measures to guarantee this declaration! This, we know, was not done. Only after four and a half months, after two government reshuffles, after devastation on the land engulfed almost the whole of Russia, when, in essence, everything was already over, was it possible to publish a decree, the need for which, our party and numerous peasant congresses have repeatedly pointed out. It is already clear that it will not have any great significance, since you will not change what has been done". (VN, 16 July)
However, it seems to us that these lines, clearly summing up the work of the coalition government, propagating from above genuine rural anarchy, are too pessimistic in their conclusions. The land committees, getting real power into their hands over the land, could untangle much of the swindling and liquidate many of the land deals made in the transition period. All that would be needed is a real revolutionary power at the centre. Precisely to avoid this, the bourgeoisie wants to put leadership of land reform into its own hands and demands the removal of even the patient and moderate Chernov. The petit-bourgeois ‘socialists’ – ready to hand over to the bourgeoisie control of the army, leadership of the international destiny of Russia and internal ‘order’ – in indecision, have come to a halt. For how long? Until the elimination of the hopes of the peasants for the land. This is now the key to the whole political situation.
‘The revolution is in danger!’ proclaims the Central Executive Committee. And it really is in danger. Not because the Petrograd workers and soldiers, despairing for the fate of the revolution, took to the streets with weapons in their hands. Not because certain criminal bands caused senseless shooting in the streets. But because the official leaders of the peasantry, ending a period of disarray and hesitation, took to the path of counter-revolutionary order. When Kerensky, Tsereteli and Chernov, the Central Committee of the revolutionary Social-Democracy, subjected to a rout by the police, enter into negotiations with the Central Committee of the counter-revolutionary party of Miliukov, then the revolution really is in danger. Especially in danger from those who, for its salvation, are setting up a dictatorship, powerless in its ferocity.
Given that a real economic crisis and a collapse of the army is drawing near, a dictatorship can lead the country onto the high road of development, but only a dictatorship of the revolution. Carrying out root and branch administrative, economic and agrarian reforms as a matter of urgency, and directing its sword against the right, against the counter-revolutionary conspiracy of the bourgeois establishment, the nobility and the monarchist officers. Only the organised working class, in alliance with the toiling masses in the countryside and the conscious parts of the army, will be able to establish such a dictatorship.
The political task is to use the experience of the past period to free the peasant masses and backward layers of workers from the tutelage of the ‘bad shepherds’ who are now handing the revolution, by its head, to its worst enemies. The task of the proletarian vanguard is to more tightly close its ranks under the banner of the struggle for political power. Through the thick of the slander, with whose help reaction wants to isolate the party of the proletariat, to win our way to the minds of the broadest masses in the cities, the front and the villages. On this road, no obstacles or persecutions can stop us. We must and we will use all the methods of campaigning, struggle and agitation that flow from the internal needs of the revolution and proletarian socialism. With all measures we will defend the structures of the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ organisations from the onslaught of pogromist reaction. We will strengthen, develop and expand this apparatus.
What place in the struggle for the development of the revolution and for the establishment of the dictatorship of the toiling masses that the present soviets of workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ deputies will occupy depends, first and foremost, on themselves. To the extent that the majority collaborates with, or indulges the counter-revolution in, its pogromist slander against the party of the proletariat, they will be rapidly swept away by political developments. So long as we remain inside these soviets we will, of course, with all our energy fight for their inner renewal and a fundamental change in all their policies. We will strive so that the Soviet will know how to be equal to the tasks of tomorrow’s revolution, by reflecting on yesterday’s. But no matter how important the role and destiny of the soviets, for us they are entirely subordinate to the struggle for political power and for the revolutionary dictatorship by the proletariat and by the semi-proletarian masses in the cities, in the army and in the villages.
Throughout all this work, we will rely on the development of the revolution in Europe. In our struggle for revolutionary unity with the peasantry, we will not for a moment forget that our direct and closest ally is the European working class. We will not take a single step that threatens to undermine or weaken the links that are being restored with revolutionary workers of all countries. With just such tactics, we will best and most truly serve the Russian revolution and hence the freedom and independence of the Russian people. ‘The Russian revolution is in danger!’ It can only be saved by the further development of its internal forces, the urgent solution of its tasks, and its transformation from a Russian to an international revolution.
1. Romanov: the tsar’s family name.
2. The Black Hundreds were anti-Semitic murder gangs, originally sponsored by Tsar Nicholas II.
3. Kadets (Constitutional Democratic party): a pro-Russian imperialist, liberal party led by Pavel Miliukov.
4. The sailors from the Kronstadt naval base near Petrograd were among the most militant supporters of the revolution. Grigory Aleksinsky, a member of the Menshevik party, was a main instigator of the slanders directed at the Bolshevik Party in July 1917.
5. The peasant-based Social Revolutionary party and right-wing socialist Mensheviks were the left face of the coalition Provisional Government, and in the leadership of the Petrograd and All-Russia soviets.
6. Former US secretary of state Elihu Root led a trade mission to Petrograd in June to put pressure on the Provisional Government to intensify the war against Germany and the central powers.
7. Alexander Konovalov and Andrei Shingarev were leading industrialists in the Provisional Government. Prince Lvov was its first minister-president.
8. Irakli Tsereteli: a leading Menshevik, president of the Petrograd Soviet, post/telegraph minister in the government.
9. Alexey Peshekhonov: leader of the Popular Socialist party, minister of food supplies.
10. Matvey Skobelev: a former supporter of Trotsky who became a prominent Menshevik in the Petrograd Soviet, and labour minister in the coalition government.
11. Dyelo Naroda was an SR newspaper.
12. Ferdinand Lassalle was the founder of the first German workers’ party in the 19th century.
13. Socialist ministers: a reference to Tsereteli and Nikolay Chkheidze, leading members of the Menshevik Party, and Alexander Kerensky and Viktor Chernov, who led the SRs. Kerensky became head of the Provisional Government after Prince Lvov, and was also war minister.
14. Wilhelm refers to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Sir George Buchanan was British ambassador in Petrograd.
15. A reference to an incident when Chernov was seized by the crowd outside the Tauride Palace, and Trotsky intervened to save his life.
16. The Inter-District Organisation (Mezhraiontsy was the group headed by Trotsky.
17. Novaya Zhizn: the newspaper edited by the well-known writer, Maxim Gorky, who led the United Internationalists.
18. Mikhail Liber was a member of the Menshevik Party and the Bund (General Jewish Workers’ Union). He was killed in 1937 during Stalin’s purges.
19. The State Duma was the tsarist-era parliament, bypassed by the revolution. The State Conference was a rigged event weighted heavily in favour of capitalist and monarchist delegates – an attempt to bypass the revolution. It was met with a Moscow-wide general strike.